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Dental Issues in Horses

December 1, 2014

Did you know that while adult male horses typically have 44 teeth, mares only have 36-40? Keeping all of those teeth in good shape is very important to your horse’s health. To keep your horse in top shape, you’ll need to make sure those choppers aren’t causing him any problems. In this article, your vet Rapid City discusses some dental issues in horses.

Common Issues

Some of the issues horses can have with their teeth include broken or missing teeth, infected teeth, gum disease, and impacted teeth. Horses in the wild or at pasture spend a good portion of their days grazing, which also puts a lot of wear and tear on those choppers. If Silver has dental issues, he may not be able to eat properly, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition, and even cause colic. Gum disease can also contribute to other illnesses.


A horse with dental issues may eat very slowly and gingerly. He may also not enjoy drinking cold water, so you may see a lower water intake, particularly in cooler weather. Horses with dental issues may sometimes drop unchewed food. They also may hold their heads to the side, or pack balls of food into their mouths, which will make their cheeks look puffy. Irritability can be another issue, as pain doesn’t do much for a horse’s temperament. Drooling and reddish mucous can also be symptomatic of dental issues. You may notice your horse tossing his head while being ridden, or being reluctant to accept a bit. Your horse may also pass undigested matter in his manure if he can’t properly chew his food.


Many times, horses are born with dental problems, which will only get worse as they get older. Gum disease or abnormal tooth eruptions can develop after a trauma or injury to the mouth. Horses that don’t get enough grazing time can also end up with overgrown incisors.


Regular dental care is very important to your horse’s overall health and well-being. Your horse should have his teeth examined and floated, or filed down, regularly. Horses under five years old should have their teeth floated every six months, as well as before beginning training. Horses over five are usually fine with yearly dental exams.

If you suspect your horse is having some problems with his teeth, or if you have any questions about horse care or behavior, please do not hesitate to contact us. As your veterinary clinic Rapid City, we are here to help however we can.

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